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Commissioners pass CAFO moratorium

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicle-tribune.com

The Grant County Commissioners passed a moratorium on all future confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) on Monday.

The moratorium prevents any future applications for a CAFO until the commissioners have had a chance to go through the current CAFO ordinance. The commissioners want to look through the current ordinance and take input from the public to see if any adjustments need to be made. This will not impact local farmer Nolan Holloway's current CAFO proposal that is currently under review.

“There's been nothing done in the area addressing CAFOs since 2006,” said Commissioner Ron Mowery.

Once the ordinance has been reviewed, the commissioners will pass it on to the Grant County Area Plan Commission who will review it before sending it back to the commissioners for final approval.

“We will have meetings where we take input and suggestions from the public, and we could decide to incorporate those and make changes to the CAFO ordinance,” said Commissioner Mike Burton.

The commissioners passed the moratorium because there are multiple farmers interested in building CAFOs in Grant County, according to Commissioner Mark Bardsley.

“This stops future applications until we have a good clean understanding (of the ordinance),” Bardsley said.

The commissioners also looked at a proposal to amend the current ordinance which would prevent any future CAFOs from being built within a mile of a church.

The Grant County Area Plan Commission submitted an unfavorable recommendation of the church proposal to the commissioners. The commissioners chose to take the recommendation under advisement due to the approval of the moratorium and have yet to vote on the proposal.

Even though the meeting was not a public hearing, the commissioners allowed a few members of the public to address the commission.

“There's 13 (animal feeding operations) in Grant County and five of them are within a half mile of a church,” Holloway said. “I just feel like your (current) ordinance is acceptable, and it is one of the longest ordinances in the state of Indiana.”

“There are that many AFOs (in the county) ... but the average size of current CAFOs in Grant County is 2,992 animals,” said community member Rod Kelly. “Nolan's proposing 9,240 animals, which is three times the average.”

“If you're a (homeowner) half a mile downwind (of the farm) it could affect property values from 60 to 90 percent,” said Kelly, who paid a certified appraiser to visit his property. “(It would also) decrease the tax base from $77,000 to $470,000 from the home values that could be downwind from this CAFO.”

At the meeting, the commissioners also discussed their current meeting venue, which has a capacity of 49 people. Due to high volumes of community interest, the venue is not large enough to host future CAFO meetings.

“We have been advised by Fire Chief (Geoff) Williams that at the last meeting we were in violation of the fire codes,” Mowery said.

Marion Fire Chief Geoff Williams told the commissioners there needed to be a second exit to allow more than 49 people in the Grant County Council Chambers, where the commissioners' and Area Plan Commission meetings are held.

At the current time, the only plan to address the issue of overcrowding is to add an exit sign above a door in the venue, according to Burton. The door that will receive a temporary exit sign leads into an office, afterward an actual door leading outside the building can be accessed.

“All meetings in this room, until we get this addressed, will have to abide by the fire code of just 49 people in this room,” Burton said. 

Mowery recommended that any future meeting relating to CAFOs should be held at a larger venue, but a final decision is yet to be made. The occupancy issue will be addressed further at the next meeting.